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View Diary: 71 Billion ? – Forget the Corporations, Tax the Churches (313 comments)

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    •  Because supporting ballot initiatives... (3+ / 0-)

      ...isn't considered partisan political action.

      And I'm glad they didn't lose their tax exemption—because that also has meant that my church hasn't lost our tax exemption as we've fought for affordable housing and more city services for the needy, and as our members marched with our church banner in the Pride parade.

      "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

      by JamesGG on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:49:36 PM PDT

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      •  Church tax exemptions (17+ / 0-)

        How can there be a separation of church and state if the state effectively supports the churches by not taxing them.  ALL of them.  If a church does do charitable work then separate that activity from the religion.  I'll support a charity but not a religious organization.

        The better I know people, the better I like my dog.

        by FTL BILLY on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:55:45 PM PDT

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        •  How can you have separation between church (0+ / 0-)

          and state if you tax them? You want to see ultra-political churches and a permanent GOP majority? Then push punishing religious institutions through taxation and you will see a flood of moderate And left leaning church goers move over to the GOP.

          Ask top al Qaeda leaders about Obama's foreign policy. Wait, you can't. They're dead. -Paul Begala

          by Fickle on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 04:45:48 AM PDT

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          •  Mostly silent co-conspirators. (0+ / 0-)

            Your so moderate churches. And the left leaning churches would probably be in the front of the push for taxing the political churches.

            WTF!?!?!?! When did I move to the Republic of Gilead?!

            by IARXPHD on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 07:13:07 AM PDT

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            •  As a member... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Spirit of Fighting Bob

              ...of one of those "left-leaning churches," I think you're dead wrong about where "left-leaning churches" would be on the issue of taxing "the political churches."

              Who do you think (shudder) President Romney's IRS would target as "the political churches" to be taxed?

              It sure as hell wouldn't be the Mormons, the Roman Catholics, or the right-wing megachurches. It would be those very "left-leaning churches"—churches like All Saints Episcopal in Pasadena, CA, which received a nastygram from the IRS after the 2004 election because the rector had preached a sermon against the positions of both John Kerry and George W. Bush on war.

              "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

              by JamesGG on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 09:19:33 AM PDT

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          •  No, you won't (4+ / 0-)

            You might see a lot of things, but you won't see liberal churchgoers moving to today's GOP, which violently opposes all of their deepest beliefs. I attend such a church and that will never happen.

            Take the "Can't(or)" out of Congress. Support E. Wayne Powell in Va-07. http://www.ewaynepowell.com/

            by anastasia p on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 08:04:47 AM PDT

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            •  You will see moderate and apolitical church goers (0+ / 0-)

              Moving in mass.

              Ask top al Qaeda leaders about Obama's foreign policy. Wait, you can't. They're dead. -Paul Begala

              by Fickle on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 08:48:46 AM PDT

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            •  I'll say right now.... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Fickle, Old Iowa Liberal

              ...that I will not support or vote for, and in fact will vehemently oppose, any political candidate or party who calls for the tax exemption of churches to be revoked—whether they're Democrats or Republicans.

              I'd leave the Democratic Party over this issue, if they were to put that in their platform—not only because the Democratic Party would, by doing that, be telling much of its base to sod off, but also because it would demonstrate that the Democratic Party was made up of political imbeciles who had no interest in actually gaining a majority.

              I wouldn't become a Republican, though; I'd gladly take part in organizing and building a third party to supplant the Democratic Party from the left. And, if the Democratic Party were dumb enough to support taxing virtually every urban church out of existence, I doubt I'd be wanting for allies in that.

              "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

              by JamesGG on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 09:23:59 AM PDT

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          •  LOL!!!! Teh Fear (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ozsea1, blueoasis, blueoregon, aliasalias
            Then push punishing religious institutions through taxation and you will see a flood of moderate And left leaning church goers move over to the GOP.
            Again with the ever present FEAR.

            I'm betting one could find numerous Catholic/ex Catholics who readily agree the church ought to be taxed. After all the Catholic church can afford multiple millions to protect/pay off victims of their long running sexual abuse scandal.

            The notion the Catholic church "can't afford to pay taxes" is totally absurd.

            "The fundamental strength of the economy is unimpaired". Herbert Hoover December 2, 1930

            by Superpole on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 08:37:53 AM PDT

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            •  not fear. it's the truth. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ShoshannaD, Old Iowa Liberal

              and let me add. I will be one of them.  I have been a life long Democrat.  I started working for state level Democrats at the age of 16.  And this would end my work for the Democratic party.

              You want to shrink the base and become the anti-religous party. go ahead. That's not the way to win elections.

              Ask top al Qaeda leaders about Obama's foreign policy. Wait, you can't. They're dead. -Paul Begala

              by Fickle on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 11:02:25 AM PDT

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          •  so punishing the rest of us to subsidize religion (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            blueoasis, aliasalias

            is ok with you?

            To be a Republican, you have to believe that our economic problems are caused by the poor having too much money and the rich not having enough.

            by Tommy Jones the Band on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 10:23:09 AM PDT

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            •  I support the tax exempt status of religous and (0+ / 0-)

              non-religious charities.  And if you want to start up a charity or non-profit based on atheism or agnosticism you are welcome to do so.

              Ask top al Qaeda leaders about Obama's foreign policy. Wait, you can't. They're dead. -Paul Begala

              by Fickle on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 11:11:57 AM PDT

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      •  Yeah, but people can and do engage in (12+ / 0-)

        such activism without being tax exempt. Churches want all of us to fund their activism, but do not want to fund our activism or even  basic rudimentary public services. There is no justification for that.

        That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

        by enhydra lutris on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 08:51:46 PM PDT

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        •  And a lot of people engage in activism (0+ / 0-)

          while also being exempt.

          •  So? Do you have a point? If I say that (0+ / 0-)

            group 'x' should stop killing puppies for entertainment, will you say that group 'y' does likewise.

            I get a blissful buzz out of bowling, should all church goers have to fund that by allowing me to deduct my payments to bowling alleys and granting bowling alleys income and property tax exemptions?

            Several of us work to try to bring about certain legislation and regulations. Should that be enough to give us tax free status?

            That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

            by enhydra lutris on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 07:30:57 AM PDT

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      •  Very very good on your church... (9+ / 0-)

        but I see a very big difference between what your church did especially with affordable housing and city services. That seems like true charity to me.

        But trying to say that suppressing gay people is not partisan?  Really!!!

        It just doesn't seem right to me...

        •  Maybe partisan, but not political as a (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Fickle

          matter of tax law, where "political activity" = supporting a candidate.  Non-profs are allowed to engage in a certain amount of lobbying for and against specific laws and ballot measures.

          •  That's part of the problem- (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            sunny skies, ozsea1, blueoasis

            I'm no tax expert and I've only skimmed the IRS regulations, but as I recall they are quite vague about what constitutes "a certain amount" of lobbying. Churches may not devote a substantial amount of time/resources to political efforts, but if there's a clear definition of "substantial", I didn't see it.

            •  So, the church itself reported (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              blueoasis

              $180,000 in "in-kind" donations.  "The contributions included tens of thousands of dollars for expenses such as airline tickets, hotel and restaurant bills and car-rental bills for top church officials such as L. Whitney Clayton, along with $96,849.31 worth of “compensated staff time” for church employees." (from the LA times).

              Additionally, individual Mormons, donated an estimated 20 million.  Which is their right as individuals.  But I wonder how much of that would have been donated had this not been spearheaded by the church.  Who knows.

              I just don't think this activity should be tax exempt.  Won't get anywhere in this climate, but I don't see why taxpayers should be supporting this...

        •  Seems like the only "difference"... (0+ / 0-)

          ...is that you agree with what we did, and you disagree with what they did.

          Both my church and the churches that supported Prop 8 were taking a position on an issue of policy, and organizing within the church to support our position.

          The Episcopal Diocese of Washington, whether formally or informally, is likely to be part of the effort organizing to defend marriage equality in the state of Maryland when it comes up on the ballot this fall. Do you think that's acceptable?

          "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

          by JamesGG on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:48:46 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Neither should be considered exempt. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            aliasalias

            http://www.irs.gov/...

            In general, no organization may qualify for section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as lobbying).  A 501(c)(3) organization may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks loss of tax-exempt status.

            Legislation includes action by Congress, any state legislature, any local council, or similar governing body, with respect to acts, bills, resolutions, or similar items (such as legislative confirmation of appointive office), or by the public in referendum, ballot initiative, constitutional amendment, or similar procedure.  It does not include actions by executive, judicial, or administrative bodies.

            Many groups set up separate non-exempt entirties specifically for lobbying.  Unions often do this.  Others, like the Sierra Club for example, are simply not tax-expempt.  

            If Churches are going to attempt to influence legislation, that activity should not be considered exempt.

            •  A "substantial part" is what's at issue there. (0+ / 0-)

              If the lobbying activities aren't a "substantial part" of the church's activities—which, to my understanding, is usually determined in terms of the proportion of the church's budget spent on such activities—then they are tax-exempt.

              "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

              by JamesGG on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 09:32:08 AM PDT

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              •  Too vague (0+ / 0-)

                The problem there is the "substantial part" test is too vague and subjective.  If Churches qualified for the expenditure test under 501 (h) though, total lobbying expenditures would still be capped at $1M, and grassroots lobbying (urging members of the general public to take political action in some way) would be limited to $250k, regardless of the size of the organization.

                Really though, I think the requirment should be that all lobbying is not exempt, and if any amount of lobbying is going to be done, beyond a very minimal amount, that should be done by establishing a separate non-exempt entitiy.  

          •  I would disagree James (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Tommy Jones the Band, aliasalias

            I see a genuine social welfare/charitable issue in supporting affordable housing and city services.  As to marching in a parade...very cool...and nobody was raising funds. I also imagine affordable housing and the other services are available to anyone, regardless of their religious or sexual orientation.  

            Prop 8, on the other hand, victimizes a specific group of people that is condemned by the LDS church.  This is not something that benefits the populace as a whole, but rather greatly harms the lgbt community.  I do not see anything charitable in this at all.

            And, as I said, nothing will happen in the current overwrought climate.  I just do not see why the taxpayers should be on the hook for a belief many of do not share.

          •  and you know James I didn't really (0+ / 0-)

            answer all of your question, my apologies.  I am glad the Diocese is defending this... and truthfully I don't know how I feel about this.

            have to think about it.  

      •  Hmmmm (0+ / 0-)

        How is advocating for the poor, minorities, etc., a political act?

        Are you/your church publicly announcing your advocacy to your local town/city: "Hey, we're such and such church on Main St., we want to help poor people rent affordable housing, and we're democrats!"

        ???

        I doubt you are doing that, but perhaps the clarification is needed.

        "The fundamental strength of the economy is unimpaired". Herbert Hoover December 2, 1930

        by Superpole on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 08:33:30 AM PDT

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        •  It's definitely a political act. (0+ / 0-)

          We are taking a position on an issue that is coming before the government of those who represent the public.

          The questions involved—such as whether or not to subsidize affordable housing, or to require a certain proportion of any new housing development to consist of affordable housing, or to speed the permit process for organizations setting up affordable housing—are all political questions, in that they concern the polis.

          And such political action is just as legal for religious organizations as it is for other non-profit organizations—so long as such action doesn't comprise a "substantial part" of the religious or non-religious nonprofit organization's activity.

          The "...and we're Democrats" part you are describing there would make it partisan political activity, and that would be the place where such activity would cross the line.

          "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

          by JamesGG on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 09:37:49 AM PDT

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          •  I Don't Agree (0+ / 0-)

            How does the city/town where you live know which political party you belong to?

            How does the city/town know which church you belong to? Are you using church stationery for your written correspondence regarding public housing?

            Yes, public housing funded by public money is a political issue-- I just don't get how your faith/church gets attached to your advocacy, unless you are somehow publishing this information.

            are you?

            "The fundamental strength of the economy is unimpaired". Herbert Hoover December 2, 1930

            by Superpole on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 11:52:00 AM PDT

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            •  "Political" and "partisan"... (0+ / 0-)

              ...are two different things.

              Our church is an official part of an interfaith network that advocates for things like affordable housing, and we regularly allow our church's main contact person with that network to speak during our congregational announcement time, as well as space in our church's bulletin next to all the other official events of the church, about how to get involved.

              The only way our church could take more of an official position on the matter would be to take a vote of the vestry—and we've had official resolutions on behalf of the vestry on other issues like this one in the past.

              Marriage equality and LGBT rights are also political issues, and our church (as well as the national Episcopal Church) has taken official positions on both issues, in addition to our church's members marching under our official church banner at Pride.

              All of the things I write about above are permitted political activities for a nonprofit religious organization like the church I attend, as long as they're not a "substantial part" of the church's activities—which they aren't, at least not as far as the budget is concerned.

              The two things that can get a religious organization's nonprofit status removed are:
              partisan political activity (i.e., explicitly endorsing a certain party or candidate for office)
              —nonpartisan political activity making up a "substantial part" of the organization's activity

              Nonpartisan, limited political activity is completely permissible for nonprofit religious organizations like churches, while retaining tax-exempt status.

              "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

              by JamesGG on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 01:07:15 PM PDT

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      •  this (0+ / 0-)

        "Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D."
        DEMAND CREATES JOBS

        by TrueBlueMajority on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 08:33:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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